Anyone who knows me knows I have a seriously unwavering love for Harry Potter. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the books or watched the films, I’m a proud Slytherin and I went to a fancy dress party as Hermione (before I got sorted into Slytherin, obvs.) I even want to get my Pottermore wand made for real.
It’s safe to say Harry Potter has a special place in my heart and this magical series has got me through some tough times by being a source of comfort when needed. J. K. Rowling has famously spoken about the fact that she based the terrifying, soul-sucking Dementors on her own fight with depression. The creepy, wraith-like creatures drain the hope and happiness out of anyone who comes into contact with them, leaving them with nothing but the worst experiences of their life. They even have the ability to suck your soul out completely, leaving you trapped in a fate worse than death.
It seems to me that if Dementors represent depression, then Boggarts could be seen as an appropriate analogy for anxiety. Whenever I watch or read “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” I try to imagine what would have come out of the cupboard towards me in Professor Lupin’s class. Would it have been a giant spider or wasp? Would it be the cows from the Cravendale adverts? Or would it have been another nationwide bourbon shortage? It might take me a little while, but I’m pretty sure I could find a way to make those things funny and perform the Riddikulus charm.
But what if none of those came out of the cupboard. What if instead I saw my oldest friends turning against me? What if I saw myself being fired? What if I was faced with an older, childless version of me? What if, like Molly Weasley, I saw members of my family lying dead in front of me? How do you make thoughts like those funny? Those are the kind of irrational thoughts anxiety plants in your mind. Then a voice that sounds very much like your own keeps repeating them over and over again until you believe they’ll come true.
Now imagine you’re trying to fight off a Dementor and Boggart at the same time. The Dementor is silently gliding towards you and you raise your wand as you try to think of your happiest memory, a strong memory, but all you can think about is the impressively realistic show the Boggart is putting on for you. As the Dementor gets closer, you feel that eerie chill fill you like ice and you are frozen on the spot. That’s teamwork, that is! And that’s why many people often experience depression and anxiety together. They gang up on you so you feel like you don’t have the strength to fight either.
I have always joked if I were a witch, it would be highly likely that my Patronus would be either a sloth or a koala. Incredibly cute, but no help whatsoever if it came down to protecting my soul from being sucked from my body. What I really need is a Patronus like a unicorn so it could stab those nasty Dementors with its horn. Try as I might, waving around my hand-carved wand and shouting “Expecto Patronum” does not work. No unicorn. Not even a sloth. And I’d take a sloth right now.
You see, last year I found myself back on medication for anxiety and depression. It was the third time in less than five years. When I recover from a bout of anxiety and depression (they tend to visit me together), I have the very best intentions for never letting it happen again. After all, I can recognize the signs now so I can be proactive if I start to see them resurface. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way.
This time around, I fought and fought against it. I threw myself into my work which was a great distraction to start with, but as time went on, I realized I was doing my old trick of saying I was fine when I very clearly wasn’t. I’d go into work early so I could cry without anyone knowing. I had to let it out because holding it in was giving me the worst headaches. Then it got to a point where I couldn’t always hold it in.
I didn’t feel that way all the time. In some ways, this was worse because when I’d have a good day or sometimes an amazing one, the next run of bad days would make me feel even worse. Think one step forward and two steps back. By the time I accepted I needed help again, I felt like I’d gone so far backwards that even the starting line was difficult to see.
I’ve been back on my medication for a while now and 99 percent of the time, I feel great. I have the odd day where I feel like utter crap, but everyone does. It’s normal. Even though it is prescribed for both anxiety and depression, I feel like the medication is working as a Patronus keeping the Dementors at bay, allowing me to tell my anxiety where to shove it!
I also made some lifestyle changes which I truly believe have helped. I am eating better and I have heaps more energy. I also made a conscious effort to stop doing things that were causing me stress or I just wasn’t enjoying as much anymore. I now have a completely full diary again, but it’s with new classes, roles and ventures that bring out my creative side and allow me to nurture it. I smile every day. Even if it’s been a bad day, I smile as I get into bed knowing tomorrow is a new day.
I’ve accepted I may experience a relapse, but I will never stop fighting the Dementors and Boggarts that come and visit me from time to time. They are a part of me now just like Harry Potter and his wonderfully magical world is.
Follow this journey on Gloriously Ungraceful.
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Photo via Harry Potter Facebook page.